If your mom is constantly pestering you about not finding enough time to spend with her, then she might be on to something. She could subconsciously know doing so will save her life. Medical professionals will tell you illness isn't just physical: mental state plays a huge role in one's overall health.
This means that loneliness can be a key factor, especially in one's old age, as to whether a person can recover from surgeries or sicknesses. Think of that horrible scene at the end of Star Wars: Episode III, when Padme dies of "a broken heart" once Anakin abandons her. It's kind of like that, just not utterly moronic.
Which brings us to a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco. They polled 1,600 adults with an average age of 71 to see if loneliness played a part in their mortality rates. They set control groups for socioeconomic standing, access to healthcare, and overall health, but their findings were fairly conclusive: those who spent less time with loved ones had much higher mortality rates than those who did.
It wasn't by a narrow margin, either. Six years into the study, 23 percent of those who identified themselves as lonely had died. Those who said they experienced "adequate companionship" fared better: 14 percent died within the same time frame: a 9 percent difference.
Barbara Moscowitz, a senior geriatric social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital broke it down in some fairly heartbreaking terms to The New York Times:
"The need we've had our entire lives — people who know us, value us, who bring us joy — that never goes away."
We're social creatures after all, why wouldn't we want to be surrounded by those we love? Heck, one of the Beatles most memorable songs were about this very phenomenon.
The value of those interpersonal relationships, according to Moscowitz, is generally held in higher regard by elderly patients than younger ones. I'm assuming it's because they've been around the block a bit more and recognize that closeness with human beings is all that really matters at the end of the day:
"They're pretty tolerant of friends' imperfections and idiosyncrasies, more than young adults. You bring a lot more experience to your friendships when you're older. You know what's worth fighting about and not worth fighting about."
The Scary Mommy blog also cited a report from the Public Library of Science that says senior citizens who lack adequate levels of social interaction are twice as likely to die "of old age" prematurely. If we're going by the numbers, loneliness is as deadly as smoking. Although this isn't in the report, I guess they're saying that if the only way you can have friends is by finding a group of people to smoke cigars with, it's probably worth taking on that unhealthy habit over sitting alone in your house eating kale salads.
Although I'd argue that there are way better, less stinky hobbies to take up that'll get you some pals.
I come from a culture that's huge on families all living together: grandma, grandpa, and everyone under the same roof. This creates a stigma associated with assisted living communities, but in reality, it's way better than the alternative. Having a group of people to hang out with is vital for one's mental and physical health.
There's a reason why the worst punishment in prison is solitary confinement: people would much rather be locked up with murderers and rapists than spend a bunch of time alone in a room.
So you can either frame your parents for a crime, put them in an assisted living commune, or, if you're able, spend more time with them to help them not only get more enjoyment out of their golden years, but to ensure they just have more of them.
But combating loneliness obviously just doesn't help old folks, either.
A study conducted with fifth and sixth graders revealed that kids who had a "more secure" relationship with their mothers had more friendships with their peers, felt less lonely, and responded better and were less critical of others in their day-to-day conversations.
Heck, the act of just hugging your kid more creates oxytocin in their brains, which is great for developing their noggins.
Not to reference the Beatles again — I was always more a Black Sabbath guy myself — but they were right when they said that, "all you need is love." Go figure.